Book Review

Class War Remembered

With the help of financing from a Ladbroke Grove based prostitute, in 1983 Ian Bone founded Class War, an “extremely violent anarchist paper.” Bone was quite clear in that he aimed to put “violence back at the top of the anarchist agenda.” The following year the Sunday People branded Bone, “the most dangerous man in Britain.”  They described him someone with “a degree in sociology, a face like Himmler… and a heart over-flowing with hate.”

Bone was involved in the anarchist movement from the 1960s and his book, Bash The Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Tangent Books, 2006), recounts the history until 1985. Well, not quite. The disclaimer at the beginning gives an idea of what was to come:

The details of all the events in this book are a true and accurate record to the best of the the [sic] author’s recollection. However, in order to protect the guilty, some names have been changed. Also, we have substituted names to protect the identity of individuals where they could be charged with acts of riot, conspiracy and public order offences resulting from their attempt to overthrow the state or from having a good old ruck with the law. In particular, when Class War caused damage to property through riot we have substituted the names of those responsible for the majority of the trashing and violence.

Bone was disgusted with the Trotskyite left-wing groups. They were simply sell outs. An Anti Vietnam War demonstration was due to be held in Grosvenor Square outside the American Embassy in 1968 where it was rumoured that some of those attending wanted to attack the Embassy. The Anti-Vietnam War Movement, headed by the 1960s Trotskyite radical Tariq Ali, took a decision that the march would not end in Grosvenor Square but Hyde Park. As far as Bone was concerned, the Trotskyists had abandoned revolution “for a picnic in the park.” Bone has never forgiven Ali for this act of betrayal.

But it was the Class War newspaper and the surrounding activities that make Bone’s book particularly interesting. Bone recounts a Class War conference where nothing much was achieved apart from those attending getting very drunk. At another conference, it was not deemed controversial to suggest that “Everyone was bisexual.” Although a proposal that Class War activists who were not actively bisexual should be “forced to be free” did cause some controversy.

Bone was not one for advocating pacifism. Far from it, the more violence the better. There was some “jostling, well-placed kicks, and one outstandingly well-placed smack in the gob” to “the rich filth” who attended a ball at the Dorchester Hotel.  At a CND rally, Neil Kinnock was pelted with cans and banner poles when speaking on the stage and a police officer who was patrolling got punched directly in the face.  Bone’s account of his group’s actions on a “Stop the City” march commenced as follows:

We’re part of a mob charging down Fenchurch Street with black flags flying like a Makhnovist column – unfortunately, unlike the Makhnovists, we ain’t got any weapons.  There’s not many weapons that come to hand in the city, and the cops have taken care to remove street furniture and builder’s rubble. But look! I kid you not – a … lorry load of bricks hones into view. A swarm of anarcho-locusts strip it bare within minutes, windows caving in like dominoes along the street.  There’s some … huge bank windows about 50 foot high, but some proletarian typists are sitting behind them, blissfully ignorant that they’re about to be guillotined by huge shards of glass. Charlie does his Marcel Marceau bit, bangs in window to get typists’ attention, points to brick in his hand, steps back and mimes throwing brick through window.  Typists scarper sharpish. Charlie’s brick arcs its mime through the window. A … huge whoop at such ethical brick-throwing and we’re off.

As he stated in one article in Class War, Bone did not want to “Stop the City,” he wanted to “Wreck the City.” Class War went on to organise “Bash the Rich” marches through Kensington and Hampstead. The stickers advertising one of the marches included the instructions, “attitude hostile, balaclavas optional.” They aimed to leave Hampstead a “smouldering ruin.”  At Henley Regatta in the summer of 1985, Bone informs us that his crew of over 200 were “tripping the toffs up, accidentally barging into them, opening shook up beer cans next to their faces, spitting, threatening, standing in their way, smashing their sunglasses.”  He described what subsequently occurred:

We are now surrounded by the cops outside the Red Lion pub but the toffs are still too scared to cross the bridge. We launch into a few choruses of The Rich, The Rich, We Gotta Get Rid of the Rich and assorted battle cries of ‘rich scum.’ The bridge is blocked by cops and their tow-away vehicles. The cops pick me out and threaten to arrest anyone who doesn’t move on. We’ve got to break out of here before we get corralled in. We filter away in twos and threes to resume our guerrilla marauding around Henley. A BMW is turned over to cheers, the Tory Club window goes in, fists start to fly, and some hoorays decide to sunbathe fully clothed in the streets. First celebrity victim – a straw boatered Rick Wakeman is knocked out cold and hospitalised! Bricks and bottles fly over back lanes into the gardens of the rich mansions as startled sunbathers flee inside. Now a Mercedes has gone over, all its windows caved in. Posh cars are booted as their drivers try to speed pass us, cops vans sirens blazing are racing around trying to keep up with the action. A few vicious little rucks break out with the steroid-rich rowing crews…..

For many people not in the group, including those who did not attend any of the rallies or witness any of the violence, Class War will be remembered for its provocative newspaper headlines and stories. By 1977, when he was writing a Swansea based local anarchist paper, Bone realised that outlandish material combined with vulgar language sold newspapers. He puts it bluntly:

If you called a council leader a ‘wanker’ in print that was fine, but if you called the called the council leader a ‘fucking wanker’ that was even better. If you called the council leader a ‘FUCKING WANKER’ and stuck it on the front page, that was better still. Circulation would shoot up and you’d see people pouring out of the city centre boozers on Saturday afternoons trying to find more copies.

Stickers promoting Class War with statements such as “Bash the rich – but first, where’s my pint” and “Our lives will be better when the rich are dead”  were printed. The second issue of the newspaper had the following on the cover: “Now is the time for every dirty lousy tramp to lie in wait outside the palaces of the rich and shout to stab them to death as they come out.” In one Class War article, headlined “Crime,” Bone stated: “We’re totally in favour of mugging the rich, burgling the posh neighbourhoods, looting, assaulting the police and putting the boot in whenever we can.” This particular article appeared in an issue of the newspaper which had its most famous cover, a picture of Margaret Thatcher with a meat cleaver through her head and blood splattering everywhere. The caption next to the picture was “Best Cut of All.”  Another article stated categorically, “We fight the bastards with all their forces and all our strength with bricks and petrol bombs, we confront them and maim and kill them. Because we hate them.”

One of the most popular regular features in the newspaper was the “Hospitalised Copper.” Here, Class War published a photograph of a police officer who had been attacked. The photograph had a suitable caption such as “PC Billy Bollock bashed bruised and beaten in Bristol bundle.” This feature was so popular that when they left it out of one issue they received a number of complaints from their readers.

Bash the Rich is not a full history of Class War, it is a personal account, albeit an important personal account as the book was written by the founder. It is possibly time that a full history was written, as it may be of interest to sociologists and psychiatrists looking into depraved and violent social movements.

I finish with the lyrics to a song by Ian Bone’s band – Living Legends:

Tory Funerals

There’s some occasions, some special events
You could say they were heaven sent
They engrave the stones with Roman numerals
My favourite ones… They’re Tory Funerals

Conservative Ministers or Tory MPs
There’s one sure way for them to please
They can call me a bastard, call me a red
In return… Just drop dead

Tory Funerals… Tory Funerals
I want more of Tory Funerals
Tory Funerals… Tory Funerals
I want more of Tory Funerals

The Speaker of the House of Commons – for it is he!
“It is my painful duty to have to inform the house that the Rt.Hon member for Finchley Mrs Margaret Thatcher has… dropped dead!”
(Cheers, laughter, party poppers, etc)

I couldn’t care less I couldn’t give a toss
At the sudden death of a factory boss
The ruling class are really hated
All I want… Is them cremated

Dig ‘em out the graves when they’re dead
Corpse don’t care if it’s kicked in the head
Rip ‘em apart, forget former glories
One good thing… More dead Tories

Tory Funerals….